LONDON — An audiotape purportedly by high-ranking Al Qaeda official Ayman Zawahiri warned the United States on Sunday that it would pay a high price if it harmed any of the detainees it is holding at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
"America has announced it will start putting on trial in front of military tribunals the Muslim detainees at Guantanamo and might sentence them to death," said the voice on the tape, which was broadcast by Dubai-based Al Arabiya television.
"I swear in the name of God that the crusader America will pay a dear price for any harm it inflicts on any of the Muslim detainees," the voice said.
Al Arabiya identified the voice as Zawahiri's. It gave no details.
"We tell America only one thing: What you have suffered until now is only the initial skirmishes. The real battle has not started yet," the voice said.
It was the first such audiotape said to be by Zawahiri since May 2, when one sent to an Arabic television station also made threats against the United States.
Considered to be Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Egyptian doctor Zawahiri founded a militant group that tried to topple the Egyptian government in the 1990s.
Bin Laden's Al Qaeda is blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks.
The United States is holding more than 600 people from 42 nations as prisoners at the special camp at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. The prisoners include nationals from Britain, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the U.S. military has not given a detailed breakdown.